At Philadelphia University, basketball standout is also an entrepreneurial hit

Diane Mastrull, The Philadelphia Inquirer on

Published in Business News

PHILADELPHIA -- As a point guard for the men's basketball team at Philadelphia University, Jordan DeCicco is a marvel.

Named the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference's Player of the Week for a two-game performance last month, he averaged nearly 28 points per game, shot nearly 70 percent from behind the 3-point line and 64 percent from the field, and had five assists, four rebounds, and a steal.

Now comes the sophomore's quest to be an entrepreneurial phenom, too -- while continuing to make 5 a.m. basketball practices, attend classes and keep up his grades.

No wonder he needed an energy drink.

Unable to find one that met his standards -- that is, not filled with sugar and artificial ingredients -- DeCicco, 21, of Kingston in New York's Hudson Valley, made one in his dorm room during freshman year in 2014.

"I decided to make a very healthy coffee," he recalled in an interview. "I started blending organic coffee with protein and coconut oil, sweetened with organic maple syrup."

He not only got the boost he was seeking, the concoction also tasted good, DeCicco found. The students he asked to try it also liked it.

So in January 2015, DeCicco called his brother Jake, 23, who was majoring in business at Georgetown University, and told him, "'I have something cool.' He loved the idea of starting a company that revolved around getting healthy products out there that tasted good."

Their Sunniva Super Coffee drinks -- which come in 12-ounce bottles and contain 10 grams of lactose-free milk protein isolate -- are now selling for about $3.50 each in more than 100 retail locations, including Whole Foods stores from Princeton, N.J., to Richmond, Va. They debuted on Philadelphia shelves in the fall in four flavors: hazelnut, vanilla bean, dark mocha and black brew (an unsweetened option for the true coffee addict). Sunniva is Norwegian for "gift from the sun."

The company, which now also includes DeCicco's other brother, Jim, 24, who left a job on Wall Street as a real estate analyst for the Blackstone Group to help with the coffee venture, ended 2016 reporting $300,000 in sales and projecting $2.5 million in 2017. That's just for the mid-Atlantic region and part of the northeastern United States.


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